From the phone-hacking scandal at News of the World to Anthony Weiner’s fall from grace and resignation from Congress, you need to determine what has become, or might become, an accepted part of your business culture or “ethical fading.” While both might seem flagrant and obvious, consider that those involved apparently didn’t feel so or the acts wouldn’t have occurred.

So checking your business climate on ethics is important and probably should be as equal in concern to you as your quarterly earnings.

The new phrase that might accommodate Weiner and the News of the World is “ethical fading.”

What does it mean? There are two variations of the same (first cited by researchers in 2004).

One – where companies maximize returns over fairness to employees and customers.

Two – when ethical implications of important decisions “fade” and behavior is condoned that would ordinarily be condemned.

The cultural erosion of standards tends to happen when people look the other way. In doing so, a violation of ethics suddenly becomes a practice of acceptable behavior.

Take the time to review the following:

  • If there’s disagreement about a policy or practice already in place, find time to meet with those who express concerns. If you can’t resolve the issue, simply take note and acknowledge – but do take action in some affirmative form.

  • Use informal time when employees are less cautious to discuss a scenario that would be relevant in your line of work. Pose a hypothetical and take note of the conversation. Who is talking is just as important as who isn’t talking.

  • Be aware that not everyone is comfortable talking about ethics. And sometimes what people have to share might be startling. What you accept as unethical might be on another person’s “fade” list.

If you can pinpoint the “fade” in your office, you can stop it before it becomes endemic. Discussing ethics in a workplace should be part of your time well spent. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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